I'm planning a trip to Scotland in late August and could use some advice about what to see. Between my work and school schedules, I'm only able to spend seven days there (really 6 1/2 because my flight doesn't get in until 1PM). I've never been there before, so I want to see as much as I reasonably can. I plan to rent a car so I have more flexibility. I would like to spend some time in Edinburgh since the festivals will be going on while I'm there, but I'm not sure how much time to allot. I want to get a good mix of city and country while I'm there, but I know my schedule will limit what I can do. What are some must-sees? When I travel, I like to be as immersed in the culture as possible, so any advice on that would be greatly appreciated as well!
It would be a big help to know where you are flying into and out of. Buy a Rough Guide Scotland, my preference, and do a little planning. There are several people here with lots of Scotland experience who can help once you let them in on your starting place.
I'm flying out of Iowa and into Edinburgh (I hope that's what you meant by that). I should note that I'm not really worried about jet-lag because I have both overnight and day shifts every week at work, so it's pretty easy for me to switch around my sleep schedule. However, I would like my first day there to be a bit laid back. I'm planning to get a few guide books, so I really appreciate the suggestion on a specific book. I'll check it out and get a better idea of what I want to see. Also, does that (or any other book) give ideas about how much time to spend in certain areas? That's one of my main concerns since I'm ambitious and often try to do more than I should.
How much time you spend in certain areas is really up to you. Glasgow is our center and we go out from there. The train between Edinburgh and Glasgow takes one hour. I can't help with castles since that is not our thing. In total, over several trips, we have spent about twenty-five days in Glasgow and have taken the train to Edinburgh five times for day trips. We took a bus to Inverness from Glasgow that lasted most of a day and spent three days there. Ft. William is another touristy place to visit. Our love of Scotland is the Isle of Islay, and we have been there six times. Its hard to get around there without a rental car which you can arrange on the island. A ferry goes from there up to Oban, and that's an interessting ride. If I were to advise, taking into consideration your six days I would say two days for Edinburgh, train to Glasgow for two days, then make your way by train or bus to your departing city. Six days will give you a taste for more.
I assume you would like to see the Highlands? If so, plan 1.5 days (2 nights) for Edinburgh. While in Edinburgh, you could take a city bus to Rosslyn Chapel. Then, drive up towards Inverness, stopping at Culloden and Clava Cairns, if interested.........Skip Inverness, head down the north shore of Loch Ness past Urquhart Castle towards Fort William......Basing in Fort William, visit Plockton, Glencoe, and Eileen Donan Castle. You might have time for a brief visit to Skye or you could drive up past Plockton to Loch and Glen Torridon which are very misty and evocative, before heading back towards either Glasgow or Edinburgh for your departure flight. I will look up where we stayed (nice B and Bs) if you would find that useful.
My favorite research tool for Scotland is undiscoveredscotland.com. Information on every part odpf the country, excellent maps, great pictures--just a terrific site!
One additional tip - get your hotel reservations for Edinburgh as soon as possible since you will be there during the festival season.
Thanks for the advice, everyone! Now I feel like I can start planning. I'm sure I'll have many more questions as I'm planning (I've received some advice from friends and family, but nothing from them that is particularly useful in deciding what to actually see while I'm there). @Monte: the book you recommended looks great! I've started reading it and it seems really helpful so far. Also, I hadn't thought about visiting Glasgow. I probably won't spend two days there (although that could change over the next five months), but what would be some unique things to see there? I agree that 6 days will probably make me want to go back for a longer time, but unfortunately, it's all I have right now. @Cynthia: Love the timing ideas! And (if it wouldn't be too much trouble) a list of recommended B&Bs would be amazing. @Kathy: the website looks very useful. Thanks for the recommendation! @Adrienne: Thanks for the hotel advice!
Hi Jen, We really liked these places where we stayed in June, 2010. They all still have 5 stars on tripadvisor and they all had nice views: Huntingtower Lodge, on the main road just west of Fort William ( not noisy, despite road)............Ben Tianavaig, Portree, Scotland (walk to restaurants)...........Tigh na Bruach, Invermoriston (right on the shores of Loch Ness, a couple of miles west of Urquhart Castle)......... In Edinburgh, we stayed at Amaraqua Guest House which also has its 5 stars from tripadvisor. No view, but a beautiful town house. It's near Arthur's Mount, about a mile downhill from the castle, so it's a bit of a walk to the castle. There are lots of restaurants near Amaraqua........ If you're up for a bit of a splurge, check out the Caledonian Hotel. Great location, grand old hotel........Fort William is a good central location for the suggested stops in the highlands if you don't want to keep relocating. However, changing locations frequently isn't that difficult as long as you are an organized packer!
Jen, Another Guidebook you might consider is the RS Snapshot Scotland, which is available both in hard copy and E-book formats. I found it to be VERY useful on my visit to Edinburgh. At that time of year, you'll probably find that accommodations outside the city centre are a bit cheaper. One hotel that I'd recommend is the Hotel Ceilidh Donia, which is just off Dalkieth Road (about 10 minutes by Bus). As others have suggested, it would be a good idea to book soon! An alter-native to renting a car would be to take one of the excellent day tours mentioned in the Guidebook. Some go out into the Highlands and Loch Ness, and there are both one and two day versions. If you're planning to visit the Royal Yacht Brittania, that's easily reachable by Bus from Edinburgh. Were you planning to attend the Military Tattoo (it's awesome!)? Again, pre-booking WELL in advance would be advisable. Happy travels!
Another rec for a B&B on Loch Ness--the Pottery House at Dores, about ten minutes south of Inverness. My favorite place to stay on my entire trip last summer, it was built specifically as a b&b, so the three bedrooms are really nicely laid out, with big bathrooms, closets with minifridges (including a bottle of milk and a jug of filtered water) and robes, the best breakfast with a choice of hot food (I had French toast!) and freshly baked bread, just wonderfully run!
The drive down Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle are just spectacular.
Here's my 5 cents worth. Went to Scotland last Summer for two fantastic weeks. Edinburgh Kenvie Guest House can be a fine option if on a budget. Clean B&B, very good "full scottish breakfast" in Dalkeith Rd. B&B area. Easy and cheap bus connection to Royal Mile. Don't rent a car in Edinburgh. Walk and use the bus. To "pack" in some sights - consider a one-day Rabbie's Tour. Great Value. Look-up all your options online. I took two of these. There are even multi-day tours. Rabbie's has great drivers and small vans - maximum 16 people. One of our tours was only half filled. We were half the group! After a few days in Edinburgh, you may want to visit Stirling Castle, Loch Lommond, and head over to Oban or Isle of Skye area. For a 7 day trip, I would skip Loch Ness, Inverness, and Glasgow. I really like the Inverness area - but for a 7 day trip, I would head in another direction. The sights in Inverness are not as dramatic as others. Loch Lommond is as beautiful as Loch Ness and is near other sights. Loch Lommond is not a "must-see"
YOu may want to skip the car rental altogether. Spend 3 days in Edinburgh and take a multiday trip through Rabbie's to Isle of Skye. Have a great time!
Thanks for the advice, everyone! So far, I've decided to spend my last 3 nights (1-2 days) in Edinburgh. I looked into the B&B suggestions there and they all looked great! Originally, I was only planning to to spend two nights there, but all the B&Bs I found wanted a 3-4 night commitment. I finally decided on the Cluaran house, which is a bit farther away, but a good price and the owner (who has been extremely helpful so far) was fine with 3 nights. I officially booked that yesterday, so that is a huge relief! Also, my first day there will be the last day of the Military Tattoo, so I'm going to try to order a ticket tomorrow. Because I'll be there at the end of my trip, I'll return my rental car right before that. I'm planning on looking into tours a little bit, but I think a rental car will be more suited to my independent personality. I still have to plan the rest of my trip, but I feel comfortable waiting a little bit longer and doing more research for the rest of my trip.